Indicted state senator to stay on, wants trial date after 2018 General Assembly session

State Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, who is facing federal fraud charges, said he intends to remain a legislator as he fights the case.

Attorneys for Oaks on Friday asked the judge overseeing his case to reschedule his trial for after the next General Assembly session to avoid a conflict. Reached Friday evening, Oaks said in a brief phone conversation that he will continue to serve: "I'm a senator. I have obligations to the constituency that elected me," he said.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett scheduled a two-week trial for Oaks that would begin March 5, 2018. Oaks' attorney Stuart O. Simms cited "concern regarding the availability of our client and access to other individuals that may be relevant to the defense's case" if the trial takes place during the legislative session, which lasts 90 days.

Simms cited trial scheduling for state Sen. Ulysses Currie, who remained in the legislature after being hit with federal charges in 2010 and was ultimately acquitted. Currie's trial was scheduled for after the legislative session to prevent a conflict as he served, Simms wrote.

Oaks, 70, has pleaded not guilty to nine counts related to allegations that he was recorded by the FBI accepting $15,000 in cash to use his position to help a development project.

The alleged crimes occurred while he was in the House of Delegates; he rose to the state Senate to take the place of Sen. Lisa Gladden, who stepped down in January due to health problems.

The charges were filed just two days before the 2017 legislative session wrapped, and Oaks made a surprise appearance in Annapolis on the final day. He cast votes and listened to colleagues debate policy, then ate lunch with lawmakers of both parties.

Oaks said Friday that he has continued to attend neighborhood meetings and do constituent work. "I went to three neighborhood meetings last night, and Tuesday night before that," he said.

Simms could not be reached for comment Friday.

Before being appointed to the Senate in February, he spent 28 years representing Baltimore in the House of Delegates. He had served two terms when in 1989 he was convicted of stealing more than $10,000 from his campaign fund. He was also convicted of perjury and misconduct in office.

Oaks received a five-year suspended sentence and was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service. He was re-elected to the House in 1994.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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